Q&A With Officials From Volunteer Countries (Part 2)

Last week, I shared the first part of this conversation with Alexa Voytek, Deputy Director of Programs, Innovation & Transportation, and Communications, in the Tennessee Department of Environmental Programs & Conservation of Energy Program (TDEC OEP) and Matt Meservy, Director of the Remote Planning Division in the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources. Tennessee Transportation (TDOT).

We discuss how states can begin implementation of the NEVI Program and how stakeholders across departments and industries can collaborate to efficiently and effectively build and electric vehicle (EV) charging network.

Here, we’ll dig into what a Phase 2 implementation of NEVI will look like and how Tennessee officials are increasing statewide EV adoption.

Below is a shortened version of our conversation, edited for length.

Nobleman: What are you doing to prepare for Phase 2 of NEVI and looking ahead in general?

Voytek (TDEC): With all the initiatives we’re doing in Tennessee, we’re acutely aware of the need in other areas where these funds can be spent once we fill gaps in the charging network along highway corridors. We’ve received lots of suggestions and notes on different ways to spend the remaining funds. When the time comes, we’ll do another listening session and see how we can revive our plan as needed.

Nobleman: Tennessee excels in coordination between various state agencies and entities (e.g., utilities) when it comes to building charging infrastructure. How did you manage to keep different stakeholders engaged and informed throughout the process, whether it was related to funding the completion of Volkswagen, NEVI or other endeavors? What advice do you have for officials of other countries looking to engage key stakeholders?

Voytek (TDEC): I see my role as both an information disseminator – ensuring people see the information and are aware of opportunities – and a matchmaker. In many ways, the main role we play at TDEC is sharing the opportunity and knowing that, while we may not be the leaders, we can help organize partnerships to execute projects. It’s important to recognize that many of these deployment challenges are so diverse that they require multiple fixers. Some of the true art is bringing the right parties to the table, introducing them, and then letting the magic happen from there. A lot of what we’re seeing in Tennessee is that no one can do it alone and we need to rely on our partners – both in other state agencies like TDOT, or other entities that want to get involved in moving the needle.

For me, there are several consortiums and key groups that act as organizers from relevant stakeholders. This includes Drive Electric TN, which has many committees and groups within it. The annual forum co-hosted by TDEC and TDOT, “Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Forum and Expo,” is a yearly meeting point for people to come together and talk about success stories and build partnerships. TennSmart is a consortium of public and private entities. TN Advanced Energy Business Council cultivates networking opportunities. We all help contribute to a highly collaborative and focused ecosystem of working together.

Meservy (TDOT): To add to what Alexa said about stakeholder engagement, as part of a different grant program, we laid out a “how to” for cities potentially interested in hosting an EV charging site, outlining the key players and contacts for support in bringing in the partners needed. This will continue to be important for our Phase 2 activities.

Workforce development is another piece of the puzzle. The workforce that will install the chargers and maintain and operate the infrastructure is another stakeholder we engaged with at the start of this discussion.

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